The Importance of Community and Sharing the Work of Others

Disclaimer: This blog won’t have any analysis/stats/fancy charts. It’s just my thoughts on how to build a greater community in the analytics world, encourage more long-form blog posts, and maybe move the ball forward by decreasing the barriers to entry. 

Like most of the people who read my blog, I follow the same handful of “big accounts” everyone else follows. Most of them are “big” for a reason: they post interesting, well-written work and have built up a significant audience over time. But it’s a logical fallacy to think that everyone who posts interesting, well-written work has a big audience while people who have small followings aren’t doing that. I’m fortunate that my work was discovered and embraced fairly quickly by the analytics community, and I’ve quickly developed a decent-sized following on Twitter for my work. I’m also impressed by the quality of my followers: they’re smart, engaged people who are interested in talking about soccer stats on a higher level than the “average fanTM.”

I’ve written about it before, but in my day job I’m a political science professor and I have a Twitter account where I talk academic politics. I have a small following there (~350 followers), but my followers are almost all high quality folks: current/former students, reporters from national and international media, professors, and major practitioners. It has opened up any number of professional opportunities to me, and I feel very lucky to have been able to take advantage of them as they presented themselves to me. But more than anything, I’m grateful to the folks who initially followed me back when I only had a few (< 10) followers. They followed me early when no one else was, and shared my tweets so other people could discover that I had an account and potentially follow me too and without them I wouldn’t have been able to build up even the modest follower count I have now. Because my soccer account has gained some quick visibility, I’d like to maybe pay that forward a little bit and try and draw some attention to writers you may never have read or heard of.

There is so much interesting work being done out there, most of which I probably never see. So Sunday I tweeted the following:

I found a few really interesting articles from this, which I’ll share here before I go any further:

All of those articles are interesting, and worth a read when you finish here. And follow their authors on Twitter. I never would have seen them if I hadn’t put out the open call. I’ve benefited from “big accounts” sharing my work in the past, and always appreciate when someone with high visibility tweets something I spent some time on and am proud of. I’m not a big account in the community, but hopefully I can share some underappreciated work and help some people in the way that others have helped me in the past.

So from now on, once a week (probably Tuesdays) I’m going to put out an open call for bloggers to send me their articles and I’ll share them with my audience. And I’d ask that anyone reading this takes a few minutes to do the same. Liking someone else’s work is costless, and retweeting one or two pieces a day is virtually costless as well and can help someone out. If you can tweet your own pieces three or four times (or retweet everyone who says something positive about your work), why not cut back to two or three self-promoting tweets and use one of those to promote someone else? If we really want to build a community and expand analytics rather than just promoting our own brilliance, this seems like a better way to do it.


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